Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Thousands of onlookers cheered and applauded as the sides of streets were packed shoulder-to-shoulder during a parade held in honor of returning Gulf War veterans in San Bernardino, Calif. People walked down the path waving as marching music blared behind them.
Then, dressed sharply in their blue dress uniforms, a Marine Corps band halted. All eyes shifted to them as they cleanly and swiftly maneuvered their instruments to playing positions. The Marines’ Hymn blasted proudly over the area as Marines of generations past and present stood rigidly at attention.
Five-year-old Talee R. Garcia, now a lance corporal, said he remembers this as an important moment in his life. He knew then that he wanted to become a United States Marine.
“I thought it was really amazing to see them all come home to their families,” said Garcia. “I remember it made me proud to see them and know that they were fighting for us. So ever since then I always wanted to be a Marine, and my parents went out and bought me a trumpet, and I’ve played since then.”
More than 15 years have passed since that day and a dream has been realized for Garcia, who plays trumpet with the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band here. Many Marines would argue that the Corps is a small community, and for Garcia, this view is recognized firsthand.
“Here I am at Twentynine Palms, and as it turns out, my drum major was a corporal in that band that I saw that day” said Garcia. “When I was checking in here, our band officer asked me what made me want to join the Marine Corps, and I told him the story, and he got some more information from me, and they figured out what band it was and that he was there.”
Even though so many years have passed, the feelings have not escaped Staff Sgt. Joseph Streeter, MCAGCC band drum major.
“I remember there was a lot of patriotism,” said Streeter, who was then assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro band. “That [parade] was a welcomed event. I heard a lot of bad experiences from senior Marines when they came back from Vietnam. The stories of how they were treated compared to the Gulf War, it was like night and day.”
“It makes me feel great to know that I was part of something that shaped someone’s life,” said Streeter. “There really is no way to put it, but that’s just a great feeling.”
This, however, is not the first time that Streeter has had a case of déjà vu with his Marines.
While serving as a drill instructor with 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., then-recruit Sgt. Andrew M. Coons recalls Streeter conducting an inspection and passing words of wisdom to him about his future career as a Marine musician.
“Sgt. Coons, who also plays trumpet for us here, remembers me doing his senior drill instructor inspection when he was a recruit,” said Streeter. “Also, his senior drill instructor brought him up to talk with me about going to the school of music.”
“Moments like that, as a staff [noncommissioned officer] or as a man, means more than anything when you get young people come up to you and tell you how much you influenced them and made a difference,” said Streeter. “I’m very proud and honored by it.”
Garcia said that after he found out about Streeter, he was excited and also saw him in a slightly different light.
“It’s pretty motivating to know that he was part of that,” said Garcia. “It also seems kind of weird though because I was so young, and he was already in the band. It does shows how much more experience he has and I hope that some day I can try to be like that.”
After finding his inspiration as a youth and knowing firsthand the power of impressions, Garcia reminds himself that someone may follow in his footsteps.
“Being here as a Marine musician motivates me in a way because in the audiences that I perform for, there could be a 5-year-old who saw me perform out there and it might motivate them to become a Marine or better themselves through music,” said Garcia. “You never know.”